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During its meeting on Feb. 24, the Placer County Board of Supervisors took a preliminary look at budget figures for 2009-10, approving several cost-cutting measures to help head off a projected $18.6 million deficit.

The cost-cutting measures included an understanding worked out during staff meetings between County Executive Officer Thomas M. Miller and management and confidential employees. In surveys distributed at the meetings, the two employee groups overwhelmingly agreed to accept 12 unpaid days off and two other changes next fiscal year to avoid layoffs among their ranks.

Tuesday’s Board action applies only to about 300 management and confidential employees, and also includes a 2.5 percent cap on a cost-of-living increase planned for November, and a reduced ability to cash out vacation leave. This will save about $1.6 million, about 24 percent of labor cost adjustments needed to balance next year’s budget. (‘Confidential’ employees are non-management personnel who in the course of their work occasionally may have access to confidential labor information.)

The Board also directed the county management team to continue discussions with the Placer Public Employees Organization on similar adjustments that could forestall the need for lay-offs among employees it represents, and to seek a meeting with the Deputy Sheriff’s Association on potential savings as well. PPEO represents the majority of county employees.

Supervisors also agreed to the formation of a ‘Cost Saving Task Force’ to analyze and make recommendations regarding more than 200 suggestions submitted by the management and confidential employees.

To balance next year’s budget, the staff is recommending the use of $4 million in reserves, reductions of $4.6 million in non-employee related departmental expenses, as well as other budget adjustments. The Board also considered policy changes regarding overnight travel, use of county vehicles and internal auditing to seek additional cost savings.

The Board of Supervisors expressed support for a new helicopter ordered in 2006 for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office. However because operational costs have increased and some revenues to pay for the helicopter have not materialized, the Board asked staff to return with additional options to complete payment for the purchase and operation of the helicopter.

‘On behalf of the Board, I want to thank CEO and the management and confidential staff for their leadership in agreeing to labor reductions in exchange for protecting jobs,’ said Chairman F. C. ‘Rocky’ Rockholm.

‘Thanks to the past boards that set aside reserves for a rainy day and the cost-cutting actions we’ve already taken, Placer County is in much better shape than many jurisdictions around us. However the rainy days are coming ย– the next few years will be very challenging. We will need everyone to pull together, and use every dollar very wisely.’

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